This study analyzes how moral representations in media content can influence the strength of users’ moral intuitions, and how use of these intuitions might subsequently impact moral judgment and behavior.
The MIME (Model of Intuitive Morality and Exemplars) predicts the relationships between the media and its audience. Researchers tried to prove the MIME prediction by demonstrating that the moral views featured in the media influence the audience’s moral intuitions.
The study examines how the frequency of exposure to certain moral domains leads to them being the strongest moral intuitions in the audiences of media content. In order to do so, researchers proceeded in two phases: first, they established patterns of moral domain representations in examined media content (ex: a TV show), and second, they recruited regular viewers of the selected media content and ascertain their patterns of moral intuitions strengths.
Parallel studies were conducted in the U.S. and in India from daily serials. These types of shows were chosen because they have loyal viewers and a regular fan base, making it easier to find participants that will engage with the content. Large blocks of consecutive episodes were coded (instead of separated scenes for history continuity reasons). Coders knew both Hindi and English, and have been exposed to both Indian and American cultures, so they were able to recognize morals as they are culturally perceived.
Moral intuitions studied include care (considerate behavior, empathy…), fairness (honesty, discrimination…), loyalty (sacrifice, betrayal…), authority (obedience, disrespect…), and purity (religiosity…).
Results found that the relationships between media and users were consistent with the predictions: moral intuitions in users are stronger when the corresponding morals are featured in media content. The research also proves that the mechanisms used should be universal and can be applied across cultures because the same results were found in two very different cultures.
Sujay Prabhu, Lindsay Hahn, Ron Tamborini, and Matthew Grizzard (2020), Do Morals Featured in Media Content Correspond with Moral Intuitions in Media Users?: A Test of the MIME in Two Cultures, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, Vol. 64, No. 2, 255-276, DOI: 10.1080/08838151.2020.1757364